Completed in 1855, Point Bonita Lighthouse is the third-oldest lighthouse to have been built on the west coast. Construction of the light was spurred by the influx of people and shipping in San Francisco during the gold rush, and the light has aided ships navigating the Golden Gate’s dangerous waters for nearly 175 years. Along with the Fort Point and Alcatraz lights, Point Bonita forms a crucial triangle of beacons that direct ships toward safe passage.
Interestingly, the lighthouse was originally constructed 300 feet above the ocean. Shortly thereafter it was moved down lower in elevation and out to the very tip of Point Bonita because fog regularly obscured the light at it’s elevated location. In order to access the lighthouse, a tunnel had to be carved through the rock, and a bridge was constructed. These are two unique features that visitors can experience today.
Still active, Point Bonita Lighthouse is managed by the U.S. Coast Guard, with visitor access made available by the National Park Service (the lighthouse is part of the Marin Headlands portion of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area). Visitor hours are limited to Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays between 12:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. A half-mile trail leads past Bonita Cove out to Point Bonita, passing through the tunnel before opening up to the lighthouse and mighty Pacific.
If you can, visit when the weather is clear to get the most of the unique perspective on the Golden Gate and San Francisco. Parking can fill up quickly on weekends at the trailhead. There is additional parking a short walk down the road.